Since its debut, The Flash has quickly become one of television’s most enjoyable shows. Granted, it’s certainly early days for the show, but a good start has most definitely been made. This week’s outing, The Flash is Born, sees Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) opening up old wounds as he comes face-to-face with an old bully who just so happens to now be a meta-human. The episode’s villain-of-the-week is Tony Woodward (Greg Finley), based on DC’s Girder and whose metal skin proves unbeatable for our Scarlet Speedster. Woodward also happened to have bullied Barry during his school days. Yes, we get a good old fashioned bully angle on the show with The Flash is Born.
Whereas Woodward is seemingly just out to cause as much mayhem as he can, all purely for shits ‘n’ giggles, elsewhere the episode sees Iris (Candice Patton) persist with blogging about ‘The Streak’ and we also get to see some furthering of the dynamics between the pairings of Harrison Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and Joe West (Jesse L. Martin) and of Barry and Detective Pretty Boy, Eddie Thawne (Rick Cosnett). And again, we see Joe delving deeper into the mystery of who really killed Barry’s mother. Thing is, he seems to be asking too many questions for the liking of some people.
As for the villain of the piece, Girder is basically portrayed as a pissed off version of the X-Men’s Colossus. Unfortunately, whilst this latest foe does indeed cause Barry to push the limits of his powers, Woodward always feels as nothing more than merely fodder. Despite powers-wise being one of the strongest characters Barry has come across, the character is also the blandest of the bunch of rogues that we’ve seen appear in the show to date. Villain-wise, things are also starting to feel a tad formulaic by this point in the season, with a new villain turning up at the start of each episode, getting the better of Barry, Barry retreating to S.T.A.R. Labs to get his shit together before then returning to fight and defeat this once-undefeatable foe. This formula can work – it has already served The Flash well in establishing Barry’s abilities – but the episodes then rely on other facets to make them stand out and offer something different. Luckily for us, The Flash is Born has some brilliant moments focussed on the ever-brilliant Jesse L. Martin as Detective West.
Whilst Detective West’s arc is certainly a highlight of the show as a whole, this week we actually get to spend some substantial time with West’s partner, Eddie. Now many were pointing the finger at Eddie to wind up being one of the show’s prime villains eventually (Professor Zoom, anyone?), but The Flash is Born shows us a side to Eddie that actually makes him surprisingly likeable. It’s working closely with Barry where we get to see a bit more to Eddie than just pouting and cheesy dialogue. How his arc plays out over this season and others remains to be seen, but it was definitely a welcome expansion for the character as we got to see a few more layers to him. Similarly, we also get to see another side to the ever-charismatic Harrison Wells, with part of his backstory touched upon. That said, with Wells, how much can you really believe what he says?
Whereas The Flash is Born is let down by a weak villain, it’s still an engaging episode thanks to the moments that we spend with Joe West as he looks to find out just who or what the yellow blur was that seemingly killed Barry’s mother. This iteration of Girder is nothing particularly horrendous, just nothing memorable either. And the link to Barry’s youth feels just a bit too forced, particularly the fact that the modern-day Woodward just so happens to spew out the exact same lines as when he was a teenager on the prowl for stray lunch money. Another slight gripe is that Barry and Iris had supposedly had a major, major fallout at the end of last week’s Plastique, yet all seems to have firmly blown over by the time that The Flash is Born comes to an end. As well as this, the meetings between The Flash (yes, finally he has that name now, despite Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) seemingly giving him that particular moniker in the very first episode of the show) and Iris sometimes bring up an issue that sister show Arrow had at one stage: how can people who know the titular hero so well be able to stand right next to him but not be able to tell who he is? When Oliver Queen was simply The Hood, this was something that would regularly crop up with the likes of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson). When Barry blurs out his face, that works perfectly fine. It’s just that there have been a few times in the last few episodes where it’s just Barry stood close to Iris, slightly in a dark corner, but clearly still having the visible lower face of the same person who is Iris’ best friend. In fairness, this is kind of one of those things that you just have to take as part and parcel for a show such as The Flash, but here’s hoping these moments are minimised going forward or at least until Iris finds out the truth behind The Streak.
The Flash is Born provides likely the weakest episode of the show so far, although it’s by far a bad episode. The main gripe is the villain at the centre of things, but there are some great Flash moments. For example, it looks brilliant whenever Barry is called into action and the same can be said for this episode’s climactic battle, with the Scarlet Speedster forced to go fast enough to create a sonic boom in order to deliver a “supersonic punch, baby.” Whilst so much of the episode felt generic and merely fodder to once again let Barry Allen’s new powers take centre stage, it’s the moments with Harrison Wells and Joe that really grab the imagination and you get the feeling that things may not work out all that well for fan-favourite Detective West. And just who really is Harrison Wells? From recent set pictures, it appears that we're going to get some big dirt dug up as the show heads towards its mid-season break, although there's still a little while to that just yet. In the meantime, we'll just keep playing the guessing game.
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